What the CDC's Eviction Moratorium Does and Doesn't Do, and Where You Can Get Help
On Sept. 2, the federal Centers for Disease Control announced an eviction moratorium for renters still struggling with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
To follow up on that, KPCW talked to a couple of legal assistance advocates to find out what that order means, and what it doesn’t.
Marcus Degan is a housing attorney for Utah Legal Services, a nonprofit group that gives advice and representation to low-income people facing evictions and other housing-related issues.
He told KPCW it’s important to remember that the moratorium is not a panacea for renters.
“The most important thing that you can know right now is that you are still vulnerable to eviction,” Degan said. “The CDC order only prevents eviction on the basis of non-payment of rent or housing payments, and only if the tenant affirmatively provides a landlord or property manager, with what’s to be called a Hardship declaration.”
He noted that any rental obligation isn’t waived under the CDC announcement—it’s just delayed until Dec. 31 of this year.
Degan said that a hardship declaration doesn’t have to be a document drawn up by an attorney.
“Technically, this declaration could even just be a handwritten document signed by the tenant,” he said. “We encourage people to use one of the ready-made forms available out there, because there are five specific attestations, promises, essentially, that the tenant is making in this declaration. And because of the importance of covering all five of those, and covering all five of those in a sufficiently clear way, so as to invoke this CDC order.”
The declaration form can be found in a number of areas, like Utah Legal Services’ sister organization, People’s Legal Aid.
“People’s Legal Aid (has) actually generated a, basically a form generator online in which you just hold this tool up on your computer or phone, punch in your information, and then it automatically generates the declaration for you,” he said. “And then from there if you have an email address for your landlord, you can just dispatch that form you just created straight to the landlord, no fuss no muss. The CDC has actually created its own tool to create this exact same type of declaration. We at Utah Legal Services have our own form declaration available.”
Gretchen Lee, representing Mountain Mediation, which is another nonprofit assisting renters at this time, said the form is also available on their website.
She said their group offers a format where tenants and landlords can come to the table to work out a fair arrangement.
“We are offering to those landlords and tenants a place at a mutual table to come together to see if they can work out some workable payment plans, because at the end of the day, as everything exists now, the tenant will still owe all the back rent and potential penalties and fees,” she said. “So we have mediators in place that are here and willing and able to help those landlords and tenants get to the table.”
Meanwhile, the Utah State legislature recently met in special session. One of the moves they made was to “streamline” the process of rental assistance, Degan said.
“The devil’s always in the details,” he said. “And the programming details of this are still being worked out by the state, and will hopefully be formalized, as I understand, relatively soon. But in essence, the SB 6009 has created a state program to allow landlords to in effect to apply for rent assistance for tenants who have told that landlord that they are facing a hard time with seeking rent.”